giganews blog

Corporate culture, personal experiences, and unique observations about Giganews, Usenet, Newsgroups, and Usenet related technologies.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Newsgroups vs. Usenet

newsgroups, usenet
Newsgroups vs. Usenet
Which is more popular, usenet or newsgroups
When I first started working at Giganews a question quickly rose to the top of my mind. Which is used more, the word Usenet or the word Newsgroups? This kind of information can come in handy when writing articles or descriptions about Giganews to people unfamiliar with the technology so I decided to take a closer look.

According to Giganews' own marketing data Usenet is definitely the clear leader. Listed below is the percentage of time Usenet was searched for compared to the overall search data for Usenet and newsgroups.

Searches for Usenet
2003 - 52.35%
2004 - 67.95%
2005 - 55.15%
2006 - 53.25%

So why would people use the word Usenet more often than the word newsgroups? I believe there are two primary reasons.

Wikipedia® defines Newsgroup(s) as "a repository usually within the Usenet system, for messages posted from many users at different locations. The term is somewhat confusing, because it is usually a discussion group. Newsgroups are technically distinct from, but functionally similar to, discussion forums on the World Wide Web."

In this definition we see the fundamental problem with the word newsgroups. In many people's eyes the word newsgroups can be confused with web based applications like forums and discussion boards. Services like Google Groups and Yahoo! Groups which provide a blended mix of text newsgroups and their own "create your own" groups which are not NNTP based further confuse the issue.

Since full access Usenet services like Giganews are far more popular than text only newsgroup services the word Usenet seems to be a more natural choice when referencing the technology.

Another reason for Usenet's dominance may be a communication issue. I’ve been to many conferences representing Giganews and from time to time you run across someone who says “What does Giganews do?”. When I respond with “Newsgroup services for individuals and ISPs” they quickly respond with “I know what newsgroups are. I read CNN® all the time!”

Obviously some people are trying to infer meaning from the word “newsgroups” that isn’t there, so perhaps a communication problem has created a shift to the more specific reference “Usenet”.

In any case, it seems like Usenet is clearly more popular and may be a more descriptive term when referencing the NNTP network. This is especially true as web based text newsgroup applications further dilute the definition of what exactly a newsgroup is.

Which term do you reference when you talk about Usenet?

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Blogger stoneyjo said...

I have to admit that I always refer to 'newsgroups' and never call it 'usenet'. Thinking about it I guess newsgroups could be a little misleading as to the real nature of the beast, and thinking about it now I feel perhaps I should be using the term 'usenet'. You're right in that a lot of people may not be understanding the terminology and therefore not realising how big and varied the world of usent is. I know I find it a very useful resource.

5:10 PM 
Blogger Vertigo-IT said...

Well, when I use the word newsgroups I always get a strange look, it's a not so known word for that part of internet.

However, when I use the word Usenet, most people know it. However, when you use the word : Binaries, almost everyone of my friends know it :-)

3:32 AM 
Blogger Dexter said...

I've been using both lately and saying "Usenet newsgroups". The "news" part always confuses people who never heard of Usenet and they think I'm talking about some online news or even RSS feeds. I'd say less than 1 in 10 people I talk to have heard of either when they ask what I do. "A newsreader huh? So I can read live news from CNN on it?" *groan*

9:21 PM 
Blogger Peter Curd said...

Before I used usenet, I called it "newsgroups".. then I found out about binaries etc and call it usenet.

I do have the habit of calling anything where people actually talk newsgroups and anything binary usenet which confuses my housemates no end.

My friends never know what usenet is and rarely understand the scope of "newsgroups".

My first service was EasyNews and they did slowly introduce me to Usenet before I went for a premium service like GigaNews - they play up the binaries of course.

10:10 AM 
Blogger KaosNews said...

Nieuwsgroepen (Dutch for Newsgroups) :)

3:24 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On my french website about Usenet, we mostly call it "Newsgroups". 90% of the french never ever heard either about Newsgroups or Usenet, or barely know what it's about. But for those who knows it or uses it, they always uses "Newsgroups".

We fell the "Usenet" term more like, well, the american word, just because the major alternative ISP here ( offers a free binary acces to their customers, that they call "Newsgroups".

12:16 AM 
Blogger Giganews said...

Darth Lord,

That's an interesting observation. I'm always curious how native speakers of different languages reference Usenet.

I did some checking on queries done by French speakers and I'm seeing the exact opposite.

Usenet is searched about 3 times as often as Newsgroups by French speaking users. The most popular search is actually for the term "Newsgroup". Any thoughts as to why?

7:02 AM 
Blogger Baxter said...

I've always called it Usenet. That was the original name, and it's always been associated with a particular type of software client for reading postings.

And it's an NNTP thing :-)

11:22 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I prefer the word Usenet ad I've used it on my blog's name.

1:08 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually i think we might be both right. Depends on our position on Google for the 2 words (Usenet and Newsgroups). It also depends if you users uses the french Google or the Us Google (which gives really different results). According to Google Analytics, Newsgroup and Newsgroups are coming before Usenet (on my site of course), but way behing "giganews" :)

11:37 AM 
Blogger Giganews said...


The data I'm reporting should be accurate regarding actual searches (not visitors) which would nullify the ranking aspect. This data was gathered from France and French specific search data.

Your Analytics data is interesting because we're definitly seeing the opposite. Newsgroups still rates very low (about a third of Usenet, and a third of Newsgroup) using the methodolgy I believe you are using to get your data. Of course this is only for French / France searches.

I'm actually about to blog about Usenet and newsgroups in other languages. Maybe we'll get some good feedback.

12:04 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a very interesting link about our little Usenet/Newsgroup(s) "fight" :

Just look at the french searches, exactly the opposite of the others :D

3:45 AM 
Blogger Giganews said...


Ahhh.. Google Trends.... Unfortunately in this case the Google Trends data is *wrong*. I originally based this post on the Google Trends data and had to rewrite the post because when I compared it to other data sources on Google I noticed that the Google Trends data had to be inaccurate. For starters, look at how searches for the three terms has decreased since 2004. I can let you know that has definitely not been the case.

6:47 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right about the decrease (even if is incresing a bit since 2006). Well, il guess we'll never know :D

3:36 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have come to think of it this way:

Like the internet has websites ..

.. Usenet has newsgroups.

When you say newsgroups (plural) you are referring to the newsgroups on Usenet.

Also, I have learned in school of being flamed, Usenet doesn't get "the" in front of it either, it is just Usenet (like a name for a person, although I call myself the CanadianAlien!).

BTW, I concur with the others who say they get lots of blank stares when they refer to either Usenet or newsgroupss. But I do my best to tell everyone I can about them.

6:21 PM